Some of your favorite diet foods — turkey burgers, granola, yogurt, and more — are shockingly high in calories and fat. Here’s how to recognize 10 common fat traps.
The Sugar-Packed Snack: Yogurt
Brace yourself for culture shock. Plain yogurt naturally contains about 16 grams of sugar per cup. But if you eat flavored yogurt, you could be downing 15 or more additional grams of sugar, which is like shoveling in four extra teaspoonfuls.
Choose plain, low-fat yogurt and stir in a teaspoon of honey, maple syrup, or all-fruit spread for a hint of sweetness. Or opt for fat-free Greek yogurt, which is lower in sugar than even regular plain yogurt but often has double the protein to keep you satisfied longer.
The Tricky Treat: Sugar-Free Cookies and Candy
Don’t fall for the no-sugar scam: When manufacturers remove the sweet stuff, they often add fat. One popular brand offers chocolate-chip cookies that each contain 160 calories and 9 grams of fat, so why not eat the real thing? You might save calories with sugar-free candy, but many contain sorbitol, which can cause bloating and diarrhea.
Get your cookie fix with graham crackers, which have almost a teaspoon less sugar per serving than many other packaged cookies. Or find a 100-calorie snack pack of your favorite (try Keebler Fudge Shoppe Mini Fudge Stripes). Taking a trip to candy land? Grab a 60-calorie Tootsie Pop or a York Peppermint Pattie (140 calories and 2.5 grams of fat).
The Backpack Bad Guy: Trail Mix
Store-bought versions of this hiking staple should take a hike. A 1-ounce handful of banana chips packs 10 grams of fat (they’re usually deep-fried), and yogurt-covered raisins are coated with partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, which contains saturated and trans fats.
Toss your own trail mix with nuts, dried fruit (raisins or chopped apricots), whole-grain cereal, mini pretzels, and a few chocolate chips. Limit your portion to one cup.
The Mediocre Munchie: Veggie Chips
The rainbow-hued chips are no better than their potato counterparts. While both may boast a little vitamin A or C, your hips won’t know the difference: The salty snacks have about 150 calories and 9 or 10 grams of fat per handful. And that bag may contain plain old chips in disguise; sometimes manufacturers simply add food coloring to potato flour.
Be sure your chips list a vegetable, not potato flour or corn flour, as the first ingredient (we like Terra Chips) and stick with just one portion. Or skip them in favor of baked tortilla chips: Pair a serving (about 12 chips) with 1/2 cup of salsa; you’ll quell your crunch craving and get a full serving of veggies with only 153 nearly fat-free calories.
The Cereal Saboteur: Granola
Pancakes drowned in syrup, eggs swimming in hollandaise sauce — is there a healthy option on the brunch menu? Granola seems harmless, but it’s no breakfast of champions. One cup contains up to 560 calories and 28 grams of fat before you add milk.
Reluctant to give up that sweet, nutty taste? Skip granola at restaurants, where you can’t control your portion. Enjoy it at home by mixing a quarter cup into a cup of low-cal, whole-grain cereal, such as All-Bran Complete Wheat Flakes, or sprinkle a tablespoon on oatmeal.
The Fishy Take-Out: Sushi
Say sayonara to the trendy American-style sushi rolls. They’re stuffed with high-cal ingredients like cream cheese, mayo, and shredded cheese. And remember that tempura is simply another way of saying “‘battered and fried.”‘ One shrimp tempura roll (just six pieces of sushi) contains about 500 calories and 20 grams of fat.
Look for the basics — fish, rice, seaweed, vegetables — and skip creamy sauces. Sashimi (sliced raw fish, no rice) and nigiri (raw fish with rice) are safe, as are cucumber rolls. Order a side of protein-rich edamame to fill you up.
The Liquid Lunch: Smoothies
Sure, you’ll get your fruit servings. You’ll also fit in a meal’s worth of calories, and in some cases, way more fat than you think (17 grams in one popular chain’s 16-ounce chunky strawberry smoothie). Even if you substitute one for breakfast, you’re pushing your calorie limit: Some smoothies weigh in at 500 calories.
Pick the smallest size available, and avoid high-cal mixers like frozen yogurt, sherbet, sorbet, and especially peanut butter and granola. One good bet at Jamba Juice: the Berry Fulfilling (150 calories). Pair it with a low-fat cheese stick or a hard-boiled egg for an on-the-go breakfast or midafternoon snack.
The Sneaky Sip: Diet Drinks
That can of zero-calorie soda glued to your palm may be your waistline’s worst enemy: Research from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found that people who drink artificially sweetened beverages gained more weight than those who didn’t, possibly because the sweet flavor may trigger cravings for the real thing. In another study, soda sippers were more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure and ab fat that raises heart-disease risk.
Reserve diet soda for an occasional treat. Get your fizz fix from seltzer or sparkling mineral water, such as San Pellegrino.
The Villainous Vinaigrette: Fat-Free Salad Dressing
Without fat, your salad is dressed for diet success, right? Wrong. Your body needs fat to absorb certain nutrients in veggies. In a study in theAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who used fat-free dressings didn’t absorb any lycopene or beta-carotene, two health-boosting antioxidants.
Get an oil-based, reduced-fat dressing (usually 2 to 4 grams of fat per 2 tablespoons) that contains heart-healthy oils like olive and canola. Or make your own by whisking together 2 teaspoons of olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and a pinch of minced garlic.
The Foul Fowl: Ground Turkey
It seems like a no-brainer for burgers and lasagna, but ground turkey often includes fat and skin. A 3-ounce serving can contain 13 grams of fat — almost triple the amount in lean ground beef. With 40-plus percent of your day’s worth of cholesterol, regular ground chicken is no better.
Look closely at labels. Extra-lean turkey is your best bet, with 1 gram of fat and no saturated fat per serving. Can’t find it? Buy at least 92 percent lean ground beef.